“The Mess You Work So Hard To Hide”: Loving Yourself Right Here, Right Now


It was May when a gentle, warm breeze urged me to stop obsessing over my to-do list long enough to simply notice. My schedule had become busier than ever, and like a hamster on a spinning wheel, I was constantly in motion, trying to keep up. As goose bumps prickled my skin, I could hear the forest urging me to be still, so I moved to the bench swing about ten feet in front of me, and as I lazily lay under the canopy of trees, my ears awakened to the chirping of birds above, and my fingers started to ground my body to the soil below.

My attention was soon caught by the swaying branches, and a mesmerizing sense of wonder overtook my soul. My breathing deepened as my body relaxed in a way it hadn’t for months, and with the sound of laughing children in the background, I made space to deeply feel the present moment, inhaling and exhaling, my past and future stressors falling away.

Months later in August, I felt that familiar, peaceful nudging from Mother Nature, pulling me from a hurricane of emotions, urging me to notice what the present moment was offering. I drove home from a beautiful day at the coast with a friend and our kids, and as we rounded a bend, sunrays shone through the tree branches, illuminating the hues of ferns and forest. A feeling of calm overtook me, and I heard myself confess a deeply embarrassing situation from the week prior when major FOMO raged inside me, and my actions hurt two of my closest people.

As shame settled in my gut, I said, pleadingly, “I’m crazy. I’m just crazy. But it’s okay to have emotions. It’s okay to feel.” And with a deep knowing I was supposed to hear these words that day, my friend offered a balm for my weary soul as he said, “It’s okay. I think we all have a bit of crazy in us. I think that part of the beauty of being human is being broken.”

I recently heard someone say that if you can’t love yourself now, with all your imperfections, you won’t ever be able to; there will always be something to fix. For several months this year, my life was a chaotic mess that was out of control, and because of that, I felt all the feels we try to conceal—guilt, emptiness, frustration, jealousy, sadness, and disappointment. Desperate to appear strong, I built a protective barrier around myself and stopped fully showing up.

Essentially, I didn’t want to show my mess.

But as Jennifer Thompson says, “The mess you work so hard to hide may be just what someone else needs to see today to know they aren’t alone.”

If you’re feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, stressed, upset, angry, or anything else that comes as a natural side effect of being a parent—and really, of being human—you’re not alone. I’m here to say that loving yourself completely can only happen when you love the whole you—the you who’s making mistakes, the you that you want to close off to the world, the real you instead of a perfect version in the fantasies of your mind.

To love the messy and broken—to see the beauty in being human right here, right now—that’s divine. Today, I’m foregoing the pretty and perfect, and instead, showing a glimpse into my own challenges with the hope it offers support and comfort.

Mom guilt hits so hard sometimes.

I stared at the mountain of laundry that hadn’t been folded for weeks when sighs of frustration and anger escaped my ten-year-old daughter’s mouth. She couldn’t find any clean clothes to wear, and with a schedule unlike anything I had before, I couldn’t keep up. Annoyance tingled through my body—couldn’t she see I was at my wits end, and stress was eating me up inside? Unable to control my emotions, tears formed in my eyes as I towered over her and yelled, only a foot away, “If you want folded clothes, do it yourself!!”

Her beautiful body caved in front of me as sadness swept over her face, and the guilt, oh the guilt, it hit me so strong. I physically bent over with a stomachache. Her face told me what I already knew: it wasn’t about the laundry. She wanted a mom who showed up for her, and I was failing miserably. Guilt racked my soul as I simply didn’t have enough of me to give—and with a paralyzing fear that I couldn’t change a damn thing in my schedule for months to come, I began to weep from bone-deep exhaustion.

Striving is good but know this: You are enough, even now.

Shortly after that moment in the laundry room, I was at work when my manager came into the break room to see if I could possibly stay an hour later. I’ve never been able to work as many hours as my co-workers due to my other responsibilities, and as a perfectionist, I have fought feelings of shame because of it—so, to try and keep up, I said yes.

A little while later, my co-worker, another parent, asked why I said yes. I responded, deflated and defeated, “Because I feel like I’m never enough. Everywhere I go, everything I do, I can’t give everyone what they need from me. At work, I can’t be all in; at home, my house is a mess; with my kids, I’m not baking with them, adventuring with them, playing with them enough. I’m literally never enough in every space I’m in, so I’m going to stay an hour later to prove my worth.”

He looked me straight in the face and said the words I desperately needed to hear about myself but was unwilling to believe: “You don’t need to prove yourself. You. are. enough. Right here, right now, just by being you. You are enough. Tell yourself that.”

The present moment provides the answers.

It was still the rainy season early in the year, so probably February or March; I was closing that night, and as a co-worker and I tidied books on shelves, our small talk deepened. Distressed, she worryingly admitted that she no longer agreed with her childhood beliefs. Essentially, she knew what not to think but hadn’t figured out what to actually believe.

Aware that I went through a similar process, she asked, “How did you do it?” And I heard myself witness that once you move past the fear of not knowing, there’s beauty in the mystery, that all we truly know we have is the present, and peace comes from noticing the magic unfold.

In his book, Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love is the Key to Unlocking Your Greatness, Vex King states, “I always tell people to trust their instinct, because that’s their soul whispering advice to them.” If there’s anything my gut has told me this year as I’ve stumbled and fallen, it’s that if there’s madness in the rush, there’s a knowing in the calm. May we slow down long enough to truly accept what is—mess and all—right here, right now.

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Tara is a mom to two kiddos, ages 5 and 9, and has been married to her best friend for twelve years. Raised in the Air Force, she’s from everywhere and nowhere. If asked today, she claims the Midwest, having lived in Illinois for eight years during graduate school and the birth of her first child. Five years ago, Tara and her husband took a trip to Portland and instantly fell in love. As they drove to the Oregon coast in the rain and saw the bright green moss and towering trees, it felt as if they were transported to another world. In that moment, Tara knew it was the place to raise their kids. They packed their belongings and made the cross-country move while Tara was eight months pregnant with their second. Tara homeschools her older kiddo, hosts a monthly mom’s book club, works as a freelance proofreader and a part-time bookseller, and co-leads her daughters’ Girl Scout troop. As an introvert, Tara is the first to admit she’s horrible at small talk, but if asked about the deep stuff, she’s all in. She’s a serious plant enthusiast, and she recently found that exercising and playing piano calm her soul.